This week I have the privilege of featuring a talented management consultant and communications guru, Bryan Komornik. Bryan is a Manager with Invoyent based in Chicago with an impressive track record of clients and projects under his belt. A few weeks back, Bryan and I were exchanging tips and tricks for effective PowerPoint presentations and he showed me a brilliant piece of thought leadership from his toolkit explaining a great approach for developing effective presentations. What I love about Bryan’s perspective is his focus on the three aspects of format, flow and fiber. In one succinct presentation, Bryan shows you how to package a simple, elegant message using easy-to-understand analogies and examples. I am sure you will agree the tips highlighted in the slides below are practical, easy to implement and will improve almost any presentation.
So, without further ado, I present to you Bryan Komornik’s presentation on Building Effective Presentations with PowerPoint. While Bryan and I collaborated on the commentary for each slide, all the credit for the slide deck itself goes to Bryan. Many thanks to Bryan for letting me feature it on Progressology.
Like all good presentations, let’s start by telling you what we are going to tell you. Like a compass on a camping trip, we must orient ourselves to the environment in which we exist. Our agenda slide does just that. This deck has six discrete and understandable topics and corresponding sections. I know this may be intuitive for many of you but how many times have you sat through a presentation that dove right into business without first setting context on what you are about to hear? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? It’s like jumping right in to chapter 1 of a book without reading the preface. Sure, sometimes you know what the story is about, but most times, reading the preface helps put you into the right state of mind.
Why? That’s a powerful question we must all be prepared to answer. In the context of a presentation, we need to be able to tell our audience why we are here. In this case, the objectives are clear and well understood.
We introduce our first section here and pivot to the first topic of engaging your audience: how do you grab and hold your audience’s attention? How many times have you started presenting a topic only to be greeted by faces buried in their mobile phones or tablets? The sooner you can grab your audiences attention and keep them engaged, the better.
In this case, we grabbed your attention with a movie clip. Not a bad technique at all. Just make sure it is relevant and appropriate for your audience. By the way, although entertaining, House of Lies is a terrible representation of what we do in consulting.
For the first time in history, digital media consumption has eclipsed television consumption. All the more reason that each minute of a day is a constant battle between your presentation and various types of media in today’s world.
As a presenter, you are on the front lines of the battle for the attention from your audience. If you want to keep attention, you need to have compelling information that keeps them engaged. And your core message does not have to be whizz-bang videos and animations. Harry Potter is one of the most compelling series of books in recent times. As a reader, you want to keep reading. Your slide deck should strive to be a “page turner” where your audience looks forward to what is on the next slide.
Constructing powerful presentations is not that different than laying out a newspaper. There are many elements that promote readability of a newspaper that also hold true for digestibility of a presentation. We will explore some of those commonalities in this next section.
Titles help us understand the basic topic of what we are about to read. The newspaper below organized its articles int “What’s News” and “What’s Ahead” sections to help tell focus our attention and give us a frame of reference for the articles within that section.
Last month’s newspaper is irrelevant if I want to know what is going on today; so is last month’s presentation. Give your presentation a lifespan and put a date on the cover.
Who is telling me this information? A logo on the cover page adds credibility to your message and tells your reader who is presenting their point of view.
Just as a newspaper is divided into sections, so should your presentation. Dividing into logical chunks that align to the agenda or table of contents helps orient the reader and digest the message easier.
When then New York Times first came out, it was released with headlines that didn’t stand out. It didn’t do much for the reader and sales were struggling. Headlines need to sell newspaper. Big and attractive headlines were added and sales quadrupled overnight.
The purpose of the headline is to sell newspapers, or in other words, your work to the client or your audience. It should have meaning and a point-of-view.
Consistent branding throughout the deck helps reinforce a professional image.
Article headlines help to promote quick understanding of the main message on the slide. Notice that article headlines give you an idea of the main point of the article. The slide title should let you know the main point of the slide in one well worded sentence.
One sentence not enough to make your point? That’s OK…
Often, you only have a few seconds to make your point. Continue to reinforce the main message or key takeaway of the slide in the strapline. Where your title is not enough to make the point, a one sentence summary of the page can make a big impact. Your slides can even follow a formula: headline, strapline, then content.
Then comes the core content of the slide. Consider putting the content into columns. It increases readability and helps the reader point where their eyes should go. Regardless of how you lay out your content, confine it to a consistent geographic location on the slide. There is nothing more confusing than content and titles that hop around the slide.
Your content can and should be further organized into logical chunks and sections. The example below shows content that is organized into a defined section on a page.
Whitespace is very important. Proper use of whitespace should consider shape/content alignment, font size and making sure that it doesn’t feel cluttered.
Keep the readers attention. If your slide looks sloppy, no one is going to read it.
Running header keeps audiences attention and telling your reader where we are. If your slide deck is longer or complex, it is important to have a running header.
Various layout elements help direct the reader’s eyes to specific parts of the page.
Agenda slides are not a summary; they are really just an index. For oral presentations, this slide is an agenda. You should consider developing one slide that the client or audience can take away. Some use an executive summary as the takeaway but that’s not it. The takeaway should actually be a slide that you take away with actionable items (timeline, next steps, something actionable). It’s a common misconception is that executive summary is an takeaway slide.
Conversational writing is engaging!
When I [Bryan] was in college, I participated in a company case competition. After I was done presenting the judges asked if I worked/interned at a consulting firm. They could tell! They said the slides looked like professional slides from a familiar company. It was a brand and style that they were used to. Good brands are repeatable, identifiable and used over and over again.
A slide storyboard is like an outline for an essay. Many mistakes are made in slide decks because people end up telling the wrong story. Storyboards keep your message and flow focused on making the points you intend to make.
It doesn’t matter what methodology you use as long as you are organized and structured about the content you present. It takes extra effort to go back and cut down than it does to start with less and then add more. However, it takes an enormous amount of time to rework the deck entirely if your story is completely off. Taking the time to storyboard saves time and produces higher quality presentations.
Brainstorming is all part of the process. Don’t be afraid of ideas. Get them down in short words and phrases on to note cards, blank slides or even post-its. You can always rephrase or re-order until you are happy with the message and flow.
Elaborate on your points. Build out the main primary point of each slide. To the extent that you have data, or information you want to present, simply reference it on the slides and come back to format it later.
Add your main takeaways, straplines and any points you want to specifically emphasize.
Make sure your headlines are short, powerful sentences or phrases.
Give your deck a wrapper. Be sure to apply the formatting, branding and graphics to support your message. Exercise your creative side and challenge yourself to come up with new and interesting ways to lay out the graphics and content.
Watch out for dark backgrounds on slides. Dark backgrounds and dark themed presentations, in general, are OK for presenting slides but they generally fall apart when printing the presentation. If your presentation is to be printed or is more of a “report,” strongly consider using a white background.
Remember: you are being paid for YOUR insights; not the person who came up with the template before you. While it acceptable to borrow and not re-invent the wheel, it is your job to tailor the information to the audience and make it unique.
Oh, and spell out the acronyms. You don’t want people to not ask the question for fear of looking stupid.
The type of slides you use should match your presentation style and should complement the presentation format. Single frames are a great way to free yourself from the confines of “covering slides” and just have a conversation. A well constructed placemat or single frame is also a nice leave-behind to summarize the key points of the presentation.
Put the most important things first and make them the biggest. Don’t bury your most important message in an 8pt font bullet.
Be an efficiency conservationist. REDUCE creation time, REUSE your templates, RECYCLE good graphics, framework and content.
Keeping a handy file or set of files with common elements styled the way you want them can save you time and enforces consistency in your communication.
That being said, the content should still be original and tailored to the audience and for that specific purpose. So, borrow liberally. See something you like? Save it for your personal collection.
Use the format Paint Brush on the Formatting Toolbar to copy identical settings onto other objects. Rotate and flip objects as needed using the Draw Toolbar. Be sure to adjust and arrange shapes and objects to snap everything into perfect alignment.
What would this deck be without a summary of what we just told you?
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About Bryan Komornik
Bryan Komornik is a Manager with Invoyent where he helps his healthcare clients shape and drive their strategic initiatives as well as manage and execute complex implementation projects.
Bryan has more than 9 years of management consulting experience with strategic advisory and IT focuses that include user experience (UX) design, user interface (UI) design, customer experience (CX) strategy, IT value realization, program management and large-scale application design and implementation management and delivery. Prior to Invoyent, Bryan was with Deloitte where he was a member of the systems integration technology practice helping public sector clients meet the demands of healthcare reform.
Bryan also serves as a Director and Board Member of the Christopher Steele Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on building awareness and raising funds to support brain cancer research at Northwestern Memorial Hospital as well as provide annual scholarships to help students pursue their goals of higher education.